STEUBENVILLE - The East Liverpool Potters lost a heart-breaking decision at the buzzer Tuesday night, falling 76-74 to Steubenville at Steubenville High School in Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 4A semifinal action.
Steubenville's Adam Sterling picked up a loose ball with less than four seconds remaining, dribbled the length of the court and got his layup airborne just in time to beat the buzzer.
This was only the third time that Steubenville led in the game.
The Potters held a four to six-point lead most of the quarter, before Steubenville tied the game with just 19 seconds remaining on a lob to Charles Reeves.
Following a timeout, the Potters spread the floor, before a turnover ensued on a drive to the basket, resulting in Sterling's recovery and subsequent game-winning hoop.
East Liverpool (13-6) was paced by Hayden Cunningham with 22 points and four assists. He was joined in double figures by Kade Reynolds 17, Austin Emmerling 14 points and 10 rebounds, Owen Crawford 12 points and seven rebounds. D.J. Austin netted seven while handing out four assists.
Brandon Herring-Hill led Steubenville (17-3) with 21, followed by Sterling 17 and Reeves 14.
"It was a great basketball game," said East Liverpool head coach Nate Conley. "Unfortunately, we didn't come out with a win. We will get better and learn from this experience."
The Potters came out on fire, scorching the nets for 34 points in the first quarter to take a 34-24 lead. Reynolds led the barrage with 10, followed by Crawford six, Emmerling six, Cunningham five, and Isaac Davidson two; and this was just the first quarter.
Two early second-quarter layups by Cunningham increased the Potters' lead to 14, 38-24 with 5:17 remaining in the half. The momentum sharply swung to Steubenville's side at this point, as they forced the Potters into turnovers and missed shots, evening the score at 39-all with just 59 seconds remaining until halftime. Emmerling connected on a one-and-one, which was matched by a Sterling jumper from almost behind the hoop on the right baseline with just eight seconds remaining. With the final seconds of the half winding down, Emmerling tipped in a teammate's missed shot to give the Potters a 43-41 lead at intermission.
Steubenville outscored East Liverpool 15-5 the final five minutes of the second quarter.
The fever pitch of play contined in the third quarter, with Steubenville outscoring the Potters 15-14 during the frame.
"We battled," said the Potter coach. "I thought we should have won, but we didn't. Right now, we have some very dejected guys in that lockerroom. But, we still have a lot of basketball left to play."
The Potters shot 54 percent (29 of 54) from the floor.
This was East Liverpool's third loss to Steubenville this year, falling December 13 at Steubenville by an 87-63 count and 62-61 at East Liverpool on December 28 in the Potter Holiday Classic.
Steubenville plays Union Local Saturday in the OVAC AAAA championship at Ohio University Eastern at 12:30 p.m. East Liverpool plays Friday night at home versus St. Clairsville. Union Local beat St. Clairsville 46-40 in the night's other semifinal.
Steubenville won the jayvee game 71-43. Dimitrios Collaros topped the victors with 20. East Liverpool was paced by Dillon Reynolds nine, Zack Adkins nine and Joey Bickerton eight.
EAST LIVERPOOL: 34-9-14-17-74
EAST LIVERPOOL SCORING: Owen Crawford 5-2-12, Isaac Davidson 1-0-2, D.J. Austin 3-1-7, Hayden Cunningham 7-5-22, John Rickerd 0-0-0, Zack English 0-0-0, Kade Reynolds 7-1-17, Austin Emmerling 6-2-14, Aaron Long 0-0-0 . TEAM TOTALS: 29, 11-15: 74.
STEUBENVILLE SCORING: Dionee Wallace-Jones 1-0-3, Brandon Herring-Hill 8-3-21, Lucas Herrington 3-0-8, Charles Reeves 6-2-14, Khaliq Bougard 2-0-6, Adam Sterling 7-2-17, Chris Smith 3-0-7. TEAM TOTALS: 30, 7-9: 76.
Three-point goals: East Liverpool 5 (Cunningham 3, Reynolds 2), Steubenville 9 (Herring-Hill 2, Herrington 2, Bougard 2, Wallace Jones, Sterling, Smith).